by: Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Copyright: 1993, ISBN: 
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, December 5, 1994
Summary: Attitude in life trumps everything. This book is an inspiring story of perseverance.
Reprinted from Crushies Book Review, December 1994 Volume I, Issue No. 6:
Age confers the right of individuality because it is assumes a history of responsibility. In the case of the Delany sisters this is certainly true. Throughout HAVING OUR SAY, the message comes through loud and clear that these two sisters, with over two hundred years of living between them, are survivors rather than victims of life. HAVING OUR SAY is one of those inspirational books that make you realize that however bad you think your slot in life may be, it could be worst; that there are people who do a lot more with a lot less. The people who do more, like the Delany sisters, simply start with a love for the gift of life. Attitude is the key.
Amy Hill Hearth, the author who put the Delany anecdotes into a chronological history, correctly points out that it is not a story about “black” people or even “women”. It is an American story. In a real sense, HAVING OUR SAY puts flesh and bone on a slew of generalities.
There is a current of belief running throughout HAVING OUR SAY. It is nicely epitomized by Bessie, the feisty Delany, when she says, “1 thought I could change the world. It took me a hundred years to figure out I can’t change the world. I can only change Bessie. And, honey, that ain’t easy, either.” While she learned that lesson, we are provided a swift tour through a hundred plus years of living life in post-Civil War America.
Bessie Delany, the feisty one, became a Dentist in June of 1923. She practiced dentistry in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. There were times when she and her brother–there were seven brothers and three sisters in the family–could not pay their office rent and were booted out onto the street. As she said, they scrapped together the rent and went back to their patients. Determination.
Sarah Louise Delany (Sadie, as she is called) was a high school teacher and retired from the New York Public School system in 1960. Hers is the reasoned voice, the voice of understanding and compromise. She calls herself a “mama’s child” because she followed her mother around like a shadow and always did what she was told. Sadie is, as she herself says, a balance to Bessie.
It is interesting that the Delany sisters are the product of an America swiftly crumbling under the espoused weight of “ethnic diversity”. Their father, Henry, was born into slavery in 1858. His mother was part African-America, part American Indian. The Delany sister’s mother, Nanny James Logan, was the daughter of “the fiercest-looking white man in Pittsylvania County”, James Miliam. Their grandmother, also of mixed parentage, Martha Logan, was born in 1842. No question under the rules and laws of the nation, the common experience of a people, the perceived notions we have of race and color that the Delany’s are black. But as Bessie says, “All I ever wanted in my life was to be treated as an individual. I have succeeded, to some extent. At least I’m sure that in the Lord’s eyes, I am an individual. I am not a “colored” person, or a “Negro” person, in God’s eyes. I am just me!” By tradition, good or bad, once upon a time, that is what being an American was all about.
Read HAVING OUR SAY. If you have ever wondered what separates the American national character from that of any other in the world, you’ll find the answer in this little gem.